Traders at New Rajdhahi Supermarket in the capital’s Tikatuli area, whose shops were gutted in Wednesday’s fire, are facing tough times as they will not be able to resume business anytime soon.
“The blaze caused significant damage… the wirings, walls and furniture -- all the goods were burnt to ashes,” Hafizur Rahman, a traders’ leader, told this newspaper yesterday.
At least 35 shops out of 75 on the first floor were completely gutted and some 15 to 16 were partially damaged, he informed. He said it will take at least a month to fix those.
The fire began at a mattress store on the first floor of the two-storey market around 5:15pm. Twenty-five fire engines were deployed to douse the fire, extinguished around 6:45pm, said Director General of the Fire Service and Civil Defence Brig Gen Sajjad Hossain.
After the Rajdhani Supermarket was established in 1995, this new one was set up on a land next to the old market. It houses around 170 stores, most of which sell furniture, clothes, jewellery, electronic products, crockeries and mobile accessories, among others, said Hafizur.
Visiting the area yesterday, it was seen that police have cordoned off the market; only the affected traders were allowed to get in. Many of them were seen lamenting while some tried to salvage whatever they could find amid charred remains.
Md Islam, proprietor of Bikrampur Electronics, said he had been doing business there for the last 18 years and had two shops on the first floor. Both were gutted in the fire.
“I have a bank loan of Tk 25 lakh. I have monthly expenses of Tk 70,000. If I can’t do any business for one month, how will I pay my debt or meet expenses?” the aggrieved trader said.
Habibur Rahman, a shop employee, recently invested around Tk 10 lakh to open up his store to sell mobile accessories. He said he took loan from a multipurpose cooperative society.
Slowly and steadily, his business was picking up, but “the fire took everything from me,” he said.
“I was not in the shop at that time,” he told The Daily Star standing in front of what was left of his shop. “I could not save a single item.”
Meanwhile, the fire service is yet to form a probe committee in this regard.
Traders alleged that none of the 17 leaders of the market committee visited the area. The local lawmaker did not come to see their loss either, alleged a trader.
Mentionable, Dhaka South City Corporation ward councillor Mainul Haque Manju was the president of the market committee. He was arrested by Rab on October 31, for his alleged involvement in extorting traders at the market.
Since then, the other committee members are in hiding, traders claimed.
The market, built with corrugated-iron sheets, was listed as a risky establishment and fire officials conducted a fire drill around a month ago, said DG Sajjad Hossain on Wednesday. He said they had asked the market authorities to improve safety in two months.
A recent inspection report of the fire department reveals that of the 1,191 private and government-owned malls, supermarkets and kitchen markets inspected in the city and its outskirts, 523 were very risky while only 45 were found to be satisfactory.